Lane's End - a demo
I don't usually work from photographs I haven't taken, but this beautiful photograph has been kicking around in my "Ideas" file for some time now, and as our Canadian Thanksgiving time is my official start to the serious winter painting period, I thought I'd kick-start my efforts with this. Of course this cries out for en plein air treatment, and how I wish I could have set up my easel there and smelled that damp, moss-ridden lane. How I wish I could walk to the end and peer over that dead-end - but at my advanced years the best I can do is to try a studio version. So here it is: step-by-step. I enjoyed doing this and I hope you find it useful.
(Based on a photograph called "Where The Little People Play" by "Ceilog" posted September, 2003, on Wet Canvas! photo reference site.)
The image size is 14" X 10", on 300 lb Arches cold pressed paper, using W&N Artists Quality watercolours.
I'm assuming most of you have no trouble getting your image on paper, but you might be interested in how I work. For more detailed information click on http://watercoloursforfun.com/Techniques.html
but as you can see I make a full-sized B&W blow up using my computer and printer, which I use as a tracing tool and to check my value system as I proceed. You can take your print to any photo outlet and get them to do this if you haven't got a printer.
Here you see my set-up, with the reference photograph, a mounted magnifying glass, and my B&W blow-up mounted in front of me. My lighting is an overhead 48" twin fluorescent lamp workshop light, with one warm and one cool tube. I also use a standard swivel desk lamp with two tubes to match.
Where to start first? We all have different ideas about this and there's no "right" way I guess. I usually start with the centre of interest and work from there. My old mentor used to say "Then, if you screw that up, you haven't wasted too much time". In this piece I decided I couldn't plan this painting stage by stage as I usually do, so I started on the main right-hand tree trunk, after putting a pale sky wash of Cobalt blue and a vague distant hill by adding a touch of Brown Madder. I've added a close-up shot of how I handled the tree trunk.
I painted an underlay of silvery-grey, using a mixture of Antwerp Blue and Brown Madder. This gave me a cool grey. For a warm grey I use Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna. Using a flat 1/4" W&N Sceptre Gold 11, I built up the texture with a combination of wet-in-wet and stippled dry brush effects, letting the underpainting show through.
I've jumped ahead a bit here and roughed in the rock formations, some of the moss growth, and the lighter underpainting of the background foliage. I used a mixture of Aureolin Yellow, Sap Green, Burnt Sienna with a touch of Sepia to kill the sweetness. At this stage many people call this "the uglies". No matter how many years you've been painting there is usually a stage when you're not sure if this thing will work. All you can do is press on until you KNOW it's beyond hope. I wasn't sure, but I decided to slog along anyway.
Some people put the branches in first and then paint in the leaves, others do it the other way around. Here I used a mixture of both, adding more texture and depth to the foliage and then putting some branches to give the illusion some of the foliage appears in front of them.
Now I've pepped up the contrast a bit to get the feel of how to tackle the left-hand side.
I worked on the left-hand foliage with a bit of negative painting, using a mixture of wet-in-wet and a kind of stippled effect. This gets tedious on large areas. I also introduced some branches as I did on the right-hand side.
I'm still not happy with the result, so I use another technique you might want to consider: I converted this image to B&W to compare contrasts.
I decide this is the best I can do and to leave well enough alone. I step up the contrast here and there and add foreground grass and ferns. I'll probably let this sit around my studio area for a few days in case I spot something I could add - but that's it....now - on to the next project.
If you need any extra explanations on any phase of this project, please post it here and I'll try to help in any way I can.